The Happiness Value Of Work-Life Balance

The 2017 World Happiness Report reported that work-life balance is now one of the strongest predictors of happiness.

Unfortunately, more than half of Americans are dissatisfied with their work due to a lack of work-life balance. In the majority of cases, this is because workers feel overworked and underappreciated, with little control over their own lives or schedules.

Work-life balance and flexible work options have stepped in to improve job satisfaction and the overall happiness and health of employees.

In many cases, work-life balance means not being confined to a 9 to 5 timetable or an inflexible schedule. This kind of rigidity always prioritizes work before all else. Work takes up that chunk of the day no matter what else is going on in life.

This can throw off the desired "balance" that makes individuals happier, freer, and more productive.

Work-life balance is about expending energy to various parts of life: work, family, friends, health, and personal growth. This "balance" of well-roundedness and wholeness in life innately begets a sense of purpose, belonging, and happiness.

1. Work-life balance prioritizes social time.

Social interaction is one of the biggest predictors of happiness. The more time spent with people, the happier you'll be. Studies have shown that social interaction is directly correlated to a person's sense of belonging and joy.The World Happiness Report stated that "social capital" is a moderate predictor of happiness. This means that we need to be social in order to be happy, both inside and outside the office.

Work-life balance provides more time to spend with family and friends. You can better schedule your work around your life. With flexible work, you can take a Tuesday afternoon off to see your child's soccer game and talk to the other parents at the game. You can make up the necessary work later that evening, the next morning, or over the weekend. You have the flexibility to prioritize people over projects when need be.

This actually improves productivity. Work-life balance encourages social collaboration, which leads to increased creativity, ideas, and productivity.   

2. Flexibility enables a greater focus on health.

Health is the foundation to happiness and productivity. If you don't have a healthy mind and body, you can't work at peak capacity.

The 2014 National Study Of Employers from the Families and Work Institute found that employees with flexible work options are more likely to have: less stress, better mental health, better physical health, and improved sleep patterns. They're also less likely to negative spillover from home to job and vice versa.

This is because they have the flexibility to prioritize the key "stressor" on their plate at any given time. If they have something going on at home, they can be present to handle it. If they have a big project at work, they can spend more time at work that week knowing next week they can take time off to be with their families.

Moreover, flexible work provides more time to focus on health as a key value. People can schedule doctor's appointments and not have to worry about taking a day off of work. They can take time in the morning to workout, showing up to work later in the day when they're more productive. They can take time off to recover from the flu and not infect everyone else in the office. Health can finally be a priority.

Flexible work allows individuals to take off when they need to, thus avoiding the $1,685 annual cost of absenteeism per employee. Flexibility also helps to prevent

Flex work options can also help workers avoid traffic, which is the number one cause of stress in our daily lives. People who don't drive during rush hour have lower anxiety and stress levels with better overall health.

A healthy workforce lowers healthcare costs, improves safety of the workplace, and builds a high-performance workforce.

3. Self-scheduling balance improves autonomy.

The strongest form of work-life balance tends to stem from flexible work options that enable employees to pursue their own definition of "balance." This naturally instills a sense of autonomy by putting the power of work-life balance in the hands of the worker.

Respondents of World Life Happiness Report stated that autonomy is directly linked to job satisfaction. The ability to control your actions and schedule impacts your happiness and efficiency levels. People who feel they have freedom at work are more engaged with their work overall.  

4. Happiness at home produces happiness in the workplace.

There is an irrefutable correlation between personal and professional lives. Stress in one area bleeds out to stress in other parts of life. A study from Oregon University found that a happy home life begets happiness and productivity in the workplace as well.

If you want to be a happy person, you need happiness in all areas of your life. This happiness stems from living a work-life balance that aligns your values and priorities appropriately.

5. Happy workers are more motivated, engaged, and productive.

Workers who are happy are more satisfied with their lives and job. Studies show that even a short-term boost in happiness can lead to greater productivity. Long-term joy has profound effects on engagement and success in the workplace. This productivity can provide a huge return for the business.

Moreover, this motivation and productivity, in turn, leads to a higher level of employee loyalty. This increases retention rates and reduces costs associated with turnover retention. It also leads to a reputation boost for organizations. The greater number of happy employees you have, the better your company appears to the customer.

Ultimately, work-life balance and flexible work options create happy employees and a positive work environment. This translates to improved productivity, greater employee loyalty and engagement, greater bottom lines, and a stronger definition of success for employees and organizations alike.
It's time to start demanding autonomy, flexibility, and happiness in your work.  

Office Romance Is Not Always a Box of Chocolates

Many people spend more time with their coworkers than virtually anyone else, so it's understandable that a romantic interest may potentially develop at the office. But with sexual harassment in the national spotlight, there's a new concern over what is appropriate workplace behavior. When it comes to love at the office, extra caution is required.

Here are 8 do's and don'ts for handling office romance wisely.

Do be confident in saying "no." Delivering a firm, clear "no" is essential when it comes to communicating your intent. Evasiveness to spare hard feelings can lead to mixed messages.  It's important to send a clear signal, aiming to treat others with respect in the process.

Don't get too comfortable. Risque comments, inappropriate jokes and most forms of touch beyond a handshake simply have no place at work. If you are interested in pursuing a relationship with a coworker, develop a friendship outside of work - asking them to lunch or coffee is a good start. If they aren't interested, graciously accept that it was not meant to be. Not every connection is a kismet.

Do know your company's policy. Before a relationship develops, check your employee handbook to see the company's rules on dating. Many businesses have specific policies as a precaution against legal issues, especially relating to relationships between supervisors and their direct reports. Once you know what's at stake, you can decide if the risk is worth it. Be aware that even if dating doesn't violate official company rules, your career could face other negative fall-out if supervisors or colleagues perceive any negative consequences on your work performance as a result of this relationship.  

Do begin with the end. Before you dive into a new relationship with a colleague, consider the possible endings. While wedding bells are a possibility, so is a nasty breakup. Think of the various scenarios you could be facing in a month, six months or a year if your relationship ends. If you get to the point where you never want to see the person again, working in the same office will be a problem.

Do be discreet. Make it a personal goal for coworkers to be surprised if they find out that you two are an item. That means no PDAs, hand-holding, pet names or fawning glances. Keep in mind that once you walk in the door you're there to be the best professional you can be. For your career's sake, it's important to avoid creating the impression that you are distracted from your work, slacking off, not fully engaged or even giving your significant other any unfair professional advantages (such as forwarding sales leads to them instead of through proper channels).

Do remember that the Internet is not private. Don't fall for the illusion of privacy when you email personal information. Whatever you do on your work laptop is company property. Save it for your private accounts after-hours. You should also use discretion on social media.

Do remain a team player. You may only have eyes for your new love, but remember, you still must interact with other coworkers. Maintain your relationships with other coworkers. Continue having lunch or going for happy hours with others in the office. Avoid going out of your way to work with or sit by your significant other.

Do make a clean break. Dealing with the emotional fallout of breakups is hard enough without doing it at work. Stay professional and process your feelings outside of the office. If you find it's too difficult to continue to work near your ex, look into the possibility of a transfer or even a new job.

2 Big Misconceptions About Work-Life Balance That Will Get In Your Way Of Achieving It

I run a small business. I'm also a writer who is married raising four kids of various ages ranging from baby and toddler to teenager and young adult. In it's most cartoon-like moments, I feel like I'm part of a three-ring circus with everything I'm trying to manage in work and life. Even in the less crazy times, it is still a daily work-life balance challenge.

For the last year, I've been trying to get a handle on all of this work-life balance stuff, which has put me on a search for the "holy grail" of sorts of work-life balance.

In that journey, I've done a lot of things that have helped a lot. I've learned how to create a realistic vision of what I really want my work-life balance to look like. I've learned how to define boundaries better, in particular as it pertains to my cell phone. I've even learned to prioritize better in both work and life and build in time for a daily regenerative activity.

I've also come to realize that some of the problems many of us have with trying to get work-life balance might be coming from a misconceived notion of what it is. That was certainly the case for me.

Here are the two biggest misconceptions I had about work-life balance that stood in my way until I changed my thinking about them.

1. Better work-life balance = more fun

I have to admit that I went into my search for work-life balance with a belief that it was just about trying to put more fun back into my life. Maybe I was just a hopelessly busy entrepreneur and dad who was looking for more vacations, more relaxing at the beach, more sleeping in, and more of all of that kind of stuff.

As I got more into trying to really figure out my work-life balance problem, I realized that whereas most of us that are entrepreneurs and parents certainly would like more of all of those fun and relaxing things, getting work-life balance wasn't just about that. I started to call this the "Carnival Cruise" version of work-life balance, and I found that many people I talked with about work-life balance had a similar version of it.

As I started to really get into the nuts and bolts of putting together my work-life plan - and allocating real hours and real time to real things on both sides of the work-life equation - I realized that getting true work-life balance might not mean doing all of the fun things but instead was about having the right amount of time to put into the most important things both at work and at home. 

Sometimes these things were not fun at all but were incredibly meaningful and important.

Once I got my work-life balance right, I thought about the fact that I now had the time to spend with our teenager during some crisis times. I now had the time to spend with our two-year old son as he worked through a speech challenge.

Neither of these things would fall into the category of beach relaxation or the world's best vacations, but I had created work-life balance to allow me to do those things. And that's what work-life balance might really be about.

2. Work-life balance does not always mean a 50:50 split between work and life activities

Maybe I was being a bit literal, but seemingly every visual depiction of work-life balance (including the one for this article) showed a scale with equal amounts of things on each side of the work-life see-saw.

This kind of made me feel like it had to be a 50:50 split in terms of how much went to each side. What I started to realize on my own journey was that very rarely is it ever 50:50. Maybe more importantly, it is perfectly fine if it isn't.

For me at this point in my life, my work-life balance scale is skewed to about 65:35 on the "life" side of the equation. If I looked at a scale, that could appear like imbalance and make me feel like I hadn't succeeded in getting balance. But in reality, it is perfectly balanced for my current wants and needs.

Until I came to terms with this, I kept feeling like I had to eliminate certain elements of the life side of my equation to get it to a perfect 50:50 balance.

If you are on the quest for your own holy grail of work-life balance, try thinking about these two misconceptions and applying different thinking about them to your own situation. I know that I got stuck halfway down the road until I figured them out myself.

The Only Work-Life Balance Formula That Actually Works

Michael Fassbender was almost bouncing as walked by me on his way to the driver's meeting before the Ferrari Challenge Series at Daytona International Speedway. Spring in his step, smile on his face, fist bumping people he knew... Fassbender looked psyched.

But he wasn't acting. This joy was real: Fassbender was going racing.

Hold that thought.

Work-life balance: Everyone talks about it. And everyone struggles to achieve it.

Partly that's due to faulty math. Many people assume the only way to achieve work-life balance is to spend the same number of hours on work as they do on "life." Spend 8 hours at work? Then you must need 8 hours of "me" time.

But for most people that seems impossible. Many work more than 8 hours a day. Many sleep at least 7 hours a day (or at least should.) Add in doing chores, and eating, and showering, and commuting, and getting a little exercise, and all the other things you need to do every day. 

What's left? For many, maybe an hour or two. Which means work and life will never balance. 

But what if you did a different kind of math?

Take Fassbender. I don't know him. I probably could have spoken to him at Daytona but chose not to. He was clearly immersed in the moment, and the last thing I wanted to do was interrupt that.

But I do know a number of actors. I know that when they shoot a movie -- and when they're at the top of the call list, like Fassbender, they typically work 12 to14 hour days.

For weeks on end they don't have time for "life." Not really. Achieving anything resembling a reasonable work-life balance is nearly impossible (although Clive Standen gives it a very, very good go.)

What can you do if that's the case? Focus not on the number of hours you spend on "life," but on the quality of those hours. That's how you balance the scales.

Imagine you're Fassbender. You love racing, so much so that you're willing to spend a ton of money to pursue it at a reasonably high level. You love driving. You love competing. You love the camaraderie and the shared sense of purpose and the atmosphere and... well, you just love it.

In much the same way that planning a vacation makes people nearly as happy as actually taking that vacation, looking forward to race weekends keeps you going during the darker days of work-life imbalance.

And then, when you do get to go racing?

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The quality of the experience far outweighs the quantity of hours involved in that experience. One race weekend is like spending dozens of evenings on the couch passively enjoying "me time."

(Of course Fassbender may not think the way I just described. But I'm willing to bet a hundie I'm right.)

And you can do the same.

If you feel your work-life balance is out of whack, focus less on the number of "life" hours and more of the quality of "life" hours.

Start with everyday things. Don't watch your kids play; play with them. That will leave you feeling much more balanced -- because the time you spent will matter.

Don't go to the gym and slog through a treadmill workout. Knock out a difficult workout designed to help you achieve a fitness goal. That will leave you feeling much more balanced -- because the time you spent will matter. 

Shoot, if you just want to veg out, don't watch whatever happens to be on TV. Don't settle for whatever seems to be the best option. That's a total waste of "life" time. Watch something you really want to watch. Have a list handy. Know ahead of time what you'll watch if you get the chance. You'll enjoy the experience a lot more -- and you'll feel like the time you spent watching TV actually mattered.

Then, in a larger sense, pick something you want to do, you want to achieve, that you want to be, and actively work towards it. Not only will you enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with progressing towards a goal -- even if that "goal" is doing something purely for fun -- but you'll also feel better about yourself and your life.

In short, stop trying to balance the hours you spend on work and "life." That math will always leave you feeling discouraged and unfulfilled.

Instead, focus on making the most of every "life" hour you have -- in whatever ways leave you feeling the most fulfilled.

That's the only way to balance the scales.

And is the best way to truly live.

Too Busy for a Vacation? Try These 4 Simple Strategies to Maintain a Work-Life Balance

What most serious entrepreneurs know is that starting a company takes a lot of effort. There are times when we can get burned out, overwhelmed and wish we could take a vacation. We fear if we take a vacation, the pulse of the business will stop or that chaos would ensue without our guidance. Work-life balance is a challenge for business owners because we love our work and, a true entrepreneur makes work their play.

If you feel like you are working too hard or need a break, here are four tips that helped me maintain a bit of work-life balance, especially in the early days.  

1.  Watch your attitude.

I used to resent the hard work it takes to build a business and compare myself to friends who are spending their evenings and weekends playing golf or at the beach. It seemed like they are having more fun, but then I remembered that they have to go back to their cubicle on Monday to face their annoying boss and I didn't. I was in charge of my own time and destiny.

Think of your start-up as a newborn baby. In the early stages, you will have to work twice as hard to get the momentum building just like taking care of a newborn. Remember, keep the attitude that the intensity doesn't last forever. Once your business starts to gain speed, you can hire a team to support you and have more free time.

My early sweat equity returned to me a business that I love and gave me more than what I could get out an afternoon of golf. 

2. Schedule time off.

I used to fear that my company was going to fold if I took some personal time to recharge. What I realized is that some of the best ideas come when I walked away from the business for a few hours or a few days. I also discovered a way to give myself a break without forcing it with what is called a "flexible-week."

Here is how the flexible week works. For one week out of the month, you can block off your schedule from your normal appointments. This off-week gives you some space in your schedule to avoid back-to-back meetings and constantly being on the go. Your mind and body will thank you for the break.

3. Communicate with loved ones.

Make sure you keep open communication with your spouse or significant other and children about your work schedule so they don't feel slighted by your absence during long work hours. This also helps prevent wasted mental energy on guilt and worry about their feelings so you can focus on tasks at hand. When you do spend time together you can make the most of it instead of having endless conversations about how your business is becoming more of a priority.

4. Keep boundaries.

I learned this the hard way. Many of my extra hours were caused by dealing with people who couldn't be pleased and not keeping my boundaries. I learned that no customer or vendor is worth crushing my peace of mind.

In the start-up phase and during cash-flow crunches, you may be tempted to be more lenient with a paying client for fear of losing that income. If you begin to work more hours to coddle a problem client, you will get into a bad pattern of pleasing and eventually you will be working more than necessary out of fear.

Of course, you want to give the customer your best, but I found that over-giving creates resentment and, ultimately, bad feelings when you start saying "no" to them. Knowing your boundaries and clearly communicate them in the beginning will make your work life more pleasant and you can spend more time on what you truly want to do.

The key to work-life balance is that you can design what fits for you instead of allowing the business to take over your life. You are always in charge of your time and how you spend it. There is no right or wrong and you'll find the balance that makes sense for you and your goals.

5 Easy Ways to Break Your Cell Phone Addiction

I thought I had made it through my teens and 20's without succumbing to addiction like many Americans before me had. Until one day, I realized that I had built a relationship with my iPhone that I just couldn't quit.

This is going to sound weird, but it was kind of my closest friend, we did everything together. I brought it on all of my favorite trips, watched my cat grow up from a kitten into a full fledged Insta-famous feline. When I needed a kick in the butt it helped me to find motivation, I brought my phone to bed, it entertained me on flights, and embarrassingly enough it even came to the bathroom with me on more than one occasion.

Heaven forbid I left the house without my tiny electronic friend.

When we think of addicts, we think of addictions of alcohol, to drugs, or even to shopping or gambling. But when you look around, you'll see that many people have a far more common, yet no less serious addiction to their phone.  

Yes, smartphone addiction is a real thing. The urge to check your phone can be almost irresistible,and it starts to control your life. Here are five steps to beating a phone addiction, and reclaiming your life.

1. Don't check your phone first thing in the morning.

You open your eyes in the morning and the first thing you do? Reach for your phone, which is conveniently plugged in on your night stand. If this is you, and you've checked your email and all your social media platforms before you've even fully opened your eyes, you may have a problem.

This is what worked for me, I kept my phone away from the bed and showered and made coffee before looking at my phone. This also helped me to hit snooze less as I actually had to get out of bed to turn off my alarm.

2. Work with your phone on silent, if possible.

Many of us have jobs where we use cell phones and need to keep in touch with people. Even so, having a phone go off every few minutes next to your computer when you are trying to work is a huge distraction. Your brain needs uninterrupted time to concentrate if you are to give 100 percent of your attention to the task at hand.

Here's what I did to resolve this, I again kept my phone on silent and focused on my work. This way, you will be less tempted to answer every little social media alert.

3. Make your vehicle a no-phone zone.

Driving and talking or texting is one of the most dangerous things you can do on a daily basis. Every year, hundreds of people lose their lives on the road due to driving and texting. All it takes is one moment of inattention. Put your phone in the backseat, shut it off for the duration of your drive, or put it somewhere you can't reach, so you won't be tempted to use it.

4. Live in the now.

Let's say you are having a coffee or a meal with a friend. Give that person your full attention and do not look at your phone. The person in front of you is always more important than the person on the other end of that text. It's also considered to be mighty rude to use your phone when you are out with someone else.

I was reminded of this by my neighbor. She re-taught me the importance of being present recently on our weekly trip to the farmers market and I now give myself a proverbial slap on the wrist when I catch myself slipping.

5. Don't let your phone time rob you of sleep.

If you find that you are up late at night browsing Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or surfing the Internet in bed, cut it out now. I fall victim to this all the time, and trust me at 4am cat videos are not important. Set a rule that you won't use your phone (or computer) for an hour before bed. This will actually allow your mind to wind down, and prepare for sleep.

If you're reading this thinking, "Wow, she's way more addicted to her phone than I am I don't need to change anything about my habits" then think again. Perhaps you'll catch yourself doing one or more of the habits mentioned above, and remember these tips and actually put them to use. We could all do a better job of living in the moment.

Why This Retired CEO Decided to Go Back to Work

After a year and a half of retirement, I am going back to full-time work.

After retiring as CEO of RBC Wealth Management, I have been offered one of the most exciting opportunities of my 35-year career in financial services: to become Vice Chairman of Robert W. Baird & Co., an international wealth management, capital markets, asset management, and private equity firm.

I can't think of a better fit. Yet this isn't the outcome I expected when I mapped out a transition plan for navigating from a 35-year career in financial services into quasi-retirement.

My plan was to put together a portfolio of activities that would sustain me through the rest of my professional life. I was selected to join the Board of the Columbia Threadneedle Funds as an independent director. I became a Senior Advisor to Deloitte & Touche, LLP. I was slated to join a high-profile public company board in January.

In short, I achieved what I set out to do. But I wasn't fulfilled. I developed a hypothesis about what my life could look like following retirement. I tested that hypothesis. I found it didn't hold up.

But I consider the process a success, not a failure.

I have the opportunity I have today -- and, just as importantly, I have conviction around the fact that it is the right opportunity for me -- because I didn't lie on a lounge chair in my backyard after retiring.  Well... at least not for very long. After a three-month summer vacation, I got busy creating something out of nothing.

I wrote down a statement of purpose, articulating what was important for me in this next stage of life. I asked myself questions like: Where do I go from here? What do I really want? What kind of person do I want to be? What will success look like in this next segment of my life? How will I measure it?

I developed and reached out to a list of old and new contacts, including executive search firms active in board placements, private equity firms, former colleagues in the wealth management, asset management and investment banking industries.

I talked to close to one hundred people about my career and life opportunities, people I admired and respected, who had walked the path of retirement and second or third careers before me.

I "tried on" numerous and varied roles to see how they might feel, from service on corporate boards and consulting work, to advisory work for private equity firms, to buying a specialty finance company, to teaching at a business school, to starting a socially responsible investment advisor, to running a not for profit organization and a governmental agency. To speaking and writing another book. To running for political office. Even buying into and managing an art gallery.

I have always been a "flow" person, doing my best work and coming up with my best ideas while talking to people, rubbing up against possibilities, bumping into things. And, in my case, I can definitely say that held true when it came to navigating this transition.

While I was out stirring the pot, I watched a former colleague almost completely withdraw from the working world to relax and focus on his family. It took only a short time -- less than a year -- for his contacts in business and his reputation to degrade. Now he is having real difficulty getting back into the game.

As I explored opportunities, I did my best to "be emergent," as Harvard Business School Clayton Christensen puts it, paying attention to how I felt as I explored new career possibilities.

What I found is that all the questions I was asking about purpose and meaning were continuously interrupted or drowned out by a persistent refrain, repeating itself over and over again in my head: "I'm not done yet. I'm just not done."

I discovered that I really missed working.

To use a sport analogy, serving on boards and in advisory roles is like sitting atop a football stadium, in a booth with the team owners, watching the game through a plate glass window. 

I missed being actively in the game. I missed wearing a jersey. I missed being part of a team. I missed being on the field.

I didn't know that was how I'd feel when I started this transition process. But now that I do know, I feel focused and energized. I feel at peace.

And I can't wait to get down to the field again and help my new team win.